How Social Media Will Shape Your Business
By Jim Tobin
There's been a lot written about where social media is going in 2009, lots of New Year's predictions, but we focus here solely on corporate social media marketing. 2008 was the year where many more corporations realized they needed to get into the social media marketing game, and so far, that's not abating in the first half of 2009. I can personally attest to that. So as the early folks get better at it, and the later adopters get into the social media marketing game, here are five trends to watch for:
1) Less Mass Infection, More Outbreaks: Viral videos are the dream of every marketer, and folks are spending time trying to manufacture them. It's great if you can, but most viral efforts will fall flat, and I suspect there is a strong negative correlation between the size of the brand and the likelihood of going viral. Why? Try getting the right viral idea through branding, legal, regulatory, privacy, PR, senior management, etc... Even if nobody outright kills it, I'll bet 10 to 1 that it will die a death of a thousand cuts.
Instead, what people should be focusing on are "outbreaks", which I define as pockets of infection as opposed to viruses. Do you need 23 million people to watch your video, or can you get great results if only 100,000 of the right people watch it? Traditional media buying has biased us toward huge numbers, but The Tipping Point and others have shown us how powerful smaller numbers of influentials can be. Figure out what really resonates with your influentials, and infect them.
From a budget standpoint, that suggests that brands should not drop $3 million on a single social media campaign. Instead, think about using that same budget on 30 campaigns that each cost $100,000. You've increased your overall likelihood of success by 30x while lowering the ROI bar for each campaign.
2) Content Aggregation, with Filtering: I've been a big fan of content aggregation for a while and we've seen (and done) some examples in 2008. But people are complaining about noise and overload (justifiably), so brands in certain spaces can take a thought leadership role simply by keeping people up on the latest industry news.
You can do it in an automated fashion (as we did here), but I think those who add a layer of human filtering will really benefit from it. So build a great automated platform, but add the ability to manipulate the results.
It's doable (we can already do it), it's quite cost effective, and it adds great value to the end user. Not a bad program to have your brand name associated with, right?
3) Mobile Social Emerges: Mobile marketing made huge strides in 2008, with App Stores for multiple brands changing the way we think about our phones. That's not likely to slow. But other than mobile apps for desktop properties (TwitterFon, Facebook Mobile, Flickr), we haven't seen the real start of the mobile social app. I'm expecting that to be a part of 2009.
By that I mean applications that take full advantage of location-based services while giving you a true two-way marketing experience. Target's Christmas Wrapped Gift Globe on the iPhone was a cool marketing app (with a great tie-in to their eCommerce back end), but it wasn't social. Look for someone to combine the two concepts in 2009.
4. The Return of People. For at least the last decade, reducing headcount has been a corporate mantra, but you can't do social media without social, and too many companies are now too lean to be human. Zappos and others are showing that being human can be a tremendous marketing advantage, freeing them from $20m, $40m or $100m advertising budgets. That pays for a lot of staff.
Dell is another organization using *gasp* people to improve their brand. They actually allow real people to engage on Twitter and talk with other real people.
If I'm right about trend #1, than it will take people to manage those 30 campaigns. That suggests some additional internal hiring and/or continued growth of social media agencies.
5. Fewer Shiny New Tools. Back in July, I predicted that some early movers would run their course, and we've seen the shuttering of Pownce, Podango is allegedly about done, and more. The near daily litany of Tweets, "Testing XXXXX new service, come add me..." started drying up sometime last summer. With the economy in its current state, I don't expect that faucet to come on again full blast.
Those new tools that do get created will likely either combine features of single-trick tools and/or they will solve a nagging problem. Tools that improve friend portability across networks, for example, could be a huge hit.
As social media geeks, we'll never have enough tools. But as social media marketers, we've got more than enough to run with for now. The limitations at this point are less technical and more creative: how do we use the wide array of two-way tools to do something really special? That's our question to answer.
Hopefully in 2009, you'll find your answer to that question.
About the Author:
Jim Tobin is president of Ignite Social Media, one of the nation's first dedicated social media agencies. With years of experience of marketing and public relations, Jim formed Ignite out of the need for businesses to better communicate with their customers through social media. Visit Ignite Social Media
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